UC San Diego’s women’s basketball team was disappointed on Saturday afternoon after a determined performance against a strong UC Berkeley side. At home in RIMAC with fans for the first time in 632 days, the atmosphere was charged. The Tritons entered this fixture coming off of a decisive home win against Westcliff University on Wednesday looking to build on their 2-game win streak while Cal chased a third consecutive victory.
The game was close, ending 64–54 in favor of visiting Cal, but UCSD fought to the very end after an exciting second half. The scoreline flattered the Bears, the 10-point disparity between the sides not entirely reflective of the impressive performance by the Tritons nor of the formidable challenge they issued their opponents.
Cal won the tip to begin the game, but UCSD started strong. Sophomore forward Aishah Brown opened the scoring with a smooth 3-pointer. She followed this up with a layup, and senior guard Julia Macabuhay added another triple for the Tritons. The Bears added their own 7 points but the home side held onto the lead until the last 3 minutes of the first quarter. The visitors went ahead after a 3-pointer by Cal junior guard Cailyn Crocker brought them ahead 10–8. The rest of the quarter saw back-and-forth scoring, with a layup by UCSD’s redshirt senior center Alex Obouh Fegue bringing the score to 15–13 to close out the quarter.
The second quarter saw Cal dominate, scoring 18 points to just 4 for the Tritons. It was the most frustrating quarter of the game for the Tritons, leaving them one step behind for the remainder of the match. The Bears began the quarter strong with 7 points in a row, amidst a number of missed shots from the home side. Despite some hard-earned points from a couple of good free throws by sophomore guard Parker Montgomery and a layup via a fastbreak by junior guard Ula Chamberlin that earned UCSD back some points, the Tritons were still down 22–17 with 5:13 left on the clock. The remainder of the quarter saw only Cal score, as UCSD conceded 11 points, 6 of which were free throws, and ended the first half 33–17.
The Tritons came back from halftime recharged, putting on an impressive performance in the third quarter, helped in no small part by a crowd that got louder as the game went on. Senior guard Sydney Brown netted a couple of good 3-pointers that bookended a layup and free throw by Cal forward Jadyn Bush within the first couple of minutes, narrowing the lead to 13 points.
UCSD kept the pressure on the Bears, responding to their next 4 points with 4 of their own by way of a jumper by Montgomery and a fastbreak layup by Obouh Fegue. Over the course of the final 4 minutes of the period, the Tritons chipped away at Cal’s lead. Montgomery’s 3-pointer and couple of free throws and Fegue’s layup added to UCSD’s tally to help counter free throws by Cal’s freshman guard Jayda Curry and freshman guard Mia Mastrov. Sydney Brown closed out the quarter with a clean 3-pointer 5 seconds from the buzzer, leaving the score close at 46–41.
The fourth quarter began with the teams again exchanging points. Curry’s jumper for Cal was matched by a fastbreak layup from UCSD’s redshirt senior guard Emily Cangelosi off of a rebound at the other end of the court. The Tritons developed a bit of momentum, as a 3-pointer from the Bears’ Mastrov was countered by a Sydney Brown layup and an Fegue free throw. The visitor’s lead was again narrowed to just 2 points after a Cangelosi 3-pointer for the Tritons brought the scoreline to 51–49.
The teams’ performances were well-matched, and it looked like the game would go down to the wire in the action-packed final five minutes. But in between the numerous timeouts for both sides, the Bears added to their lead. Despite a pair of free throws by Montgomery for UCSD, Cal scored 8 points before the 2-minute mark. Although Montgomery netted a 3-pointer with 1:58 left, those would be the last points the Tritons would score that evening. However, even though the Bears managed to add 5 more points from free throws before the clock hit zero, courtesy of a number of fouls committed by UCSD, the home side kept pushing and stayed in the game until the final buzzer sounded to end the game 64–54 for Cal.
Montgomery led the Tritons in points with 14, maintaining her career high from the last game. The team also put in an excellent defensive shift, making 6 steals and notching 5 blocks to the Bears’ 2. Offensively, UCSD led with 15 assists and scored more 3-pointers than their opponents. All in all, the Tritons put on an impressively competitive performance against a very strong Cal side, despite the disappointing scoreline.
“Throughout the game, we gave great effort and if we can keep improving we’ll do really well,” Triton head coach Heidi VanDerveer said of the performance against a “very talented, athletic” Cal team. On the return of fans to the stadium, she remarked: “It was a great environment we had. A lot of energy in the building, and I thought we played off that very well.”
The Tritons take on the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola Marymount University at the LMU Thanksgiving Classic in Los Angeles on Nov. 26 and 27. They’ll be hoping to build on the positives from this game, and turn those strong performances into results to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and propel their season forward.
Image courtesy of Mike McGinnis / UC San Diego Athletics